Today is the last day to enroll in the first cohort of writers on my Personal Essay Course. Check out the FAQ, info, and reviews here to see if it’s for you.
Because we’re on the topic of Personal Essays, I thought we’d take a quick look today at 3 common mistakes I see writers make. Whether you’re producing a piece of informative content or creative nonfiction, avoiding these three will help boost your writing.
#1. Excluding your story
One reason I reject stories submitted to my publication is they’re too generic. There’s so much content online: hundreds of articles about “How to Improve Your Relationship” or “7 Ways to Make More Money Online.”
It’s hard to write a completely original article. That’s why your own personal experience is so valuable. No-one else can write your specific story in your unique way. Readers are sick of generic information. They want connection.
Let at least some of yourself into your work. It makes a huge difference!
#2. Describing and Reacting
This often happens when you’re too close to your topic. If you find yourself simply describing the situation, blow by blow, and reacting to it ask yourself: What’s my point?
Why are you writing about this particular situation? Why should the reader care? There needs to be something in it for them: some wisdom, something they can relate to or learn from. If there isn’t, keep it as a journal entry.
#3. Skipping the scene
Vivid scenes, dialogue, and action don’t need to stay in the realm of fiction. Scenes are a powerful underutilized nonfiction tool.
Not every story needs a scene of course, but our readers still need vivid concrete images to hold onto. Many writers let their story fall into the abstract for too long—talking about justice, or contentment, or equality for example.
Give your reader something physical to imagine and relate to. Give them something they can drop on their foot!
I asked our Academy writers to share one of their stories with us so we can support and get to know each other as a community.
This week’s featured story is by Teresa Douglas. In her lovely personal essay published in PS I Love You, Teresa writes:
“At ten, my daughter Lorelei’s days of wanting stuffed animals were running out. And she was in a tailspin over her grandpa’s looming death. I couldn’t wave a wand and heal her grandpa, but I could wave a crochet hook and make a stuffy. I wound blue yarn into balls and shoved them into my purse the night before we left.”
You can give her 50 claps and a comment as support. The encouragement does have an impact, as I’m sure most of you know!
Have a great week,